NUTRITIONAL HOTLINE: Fish Oil Pills

by Diane Keddy, MS, RD
Reprinted from Eating Disorders Recovery Today
Winter 2003-2004 Volume 2, Number 2
©2003 Gürze Books

Q: Several of my friends are taking fish oil pills. Should I be taking them? What are they supposed to do for you?

A: Fish oil capsules contain the omega 3 fatty acids, eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). Foods naturally high in EPA and DHA include salmon, mackerel, herring, and tuna. Studies have found EPA and DHA to be useful in treating a variety of conditions including depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit disorder.

EPA is believed to treat depression (which frequently co-exists with eating disorders) by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. Low levels of serotonin are also believed to contribute to overeating, binge eating and carbohydrate cravings.

Since many people with eating disorders also suffer from depression and have problems with appetite regulation, I frequently recommend EPA supplementation in the form of fish oil pills to my clients. After consulting with my client's psychiatrist or physician, I recommend he/she take 1000-2000 mg EPA per day. I usually recommend the product Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega EPA as it is highly concentrated, has third party testing for purity, and contains lemon oil, avoiding a fishy taste or smell. It is available at www.nordicnaturals.com, or at health food stores.

If you decide to take fish oil pills, you should tell your physician as it may be dangerous to combine fish oil pills with certain drugs including blood thinners and aspirin. The omega 3 fatty acids can thin your blood, so it is recommended that you stop taking them at least 2 weeks prior to surgery. It is also important to consume extra antioxidants when taking fish oil pills, either through a diet high in fruits and vegetables (ie. 7 or more servings per day) or through the addition of an antioxidant supplement.

About the Author

Diane Keddy, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian with a private practice in Newport Beach, CA.

Reprinted from: Eating Disorders Recovery Today


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